When asked what their most important personal finance goal is, most people will simply say that they would like to spend less than they make. This is a very good answer, since it allows people to pay off debt, have savings on hand for emergencies, and put money away for a comfortable retirement.
However, saving money can be very difficult to accomplish, especially in these times. There are two main reasons for the inability to save money. Firstly, people may not have enough income to be able to save at all, and secondly, people may be needlessly overspending. Since there is not much we can do to help the first category of people budget better, in this article, we will offer some quick tips for people who fall into the latter category.
- Know what the goal is
People who are averse to budgeting often think that they would have to keep track of every dollar they spend obsessively. While that approach would definitely work, it is not the primary goal of budgeting. The goal is to become aware of what we’re spending money on, and how much each item in our budget will cost us from month to month, so we can plan our expenditures in advance.
- Try tracking your spending
As previously explained, the goal of budgeting is not to account for every dollar you spend. However, doing so for a limited amount of time can give you an insight into the exact way in which you spend money, so that you can plan your future budgets more easily, without having to keep track of everything. This sort of empirical method is sure to give you lots of data on your spending habits, so you should keep at it for about a week or so. If you are particularly zealous, you may try doing it for a month, in order to get a full picture.
- Split your budget into 3 categories
If you do decide to track your spending for a month, it is more than likely that you will come to the conclusion that you overspend on only a few categories of expenses. People most commonly overspend on eating out, buying clothes, gadgets, and entertainment. With that being said, decide on three of these categories you can forego, in order to bring up the overall health of your budget up.
- Use a card
While most budgeting experts advise cutting up your credit cards in order to save money on the associated interest rates, other types of cards can actually be pretty useful when budgeting. That is because your purchases are recorded electronically, and are therefore easy to access and categorize. To that end, you can use rewards cards, bank debit cards, or prepaid cards, which charge little in terms of fees.
- First save, then spend
Seeing as though the goal of budgeting is to spend less than we make, it is a good idea to save up first before spending. That means that the first item you put in and account for in your monthly budget will be how much you want to save, and then allocate the remainder of your funds according to priority. That way you make sure that you save a set amount of money each month, instead of whatever is left over at the end.
- Make use of th 50/20/30 plan
This plan was popularized by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren in her book All Your Worth. Basically, it splits the overall budget into three categories: the first 50% should be spent on necessities, 20% on long term savings, and 30% to lifestyle items. This is great advice for first time budgeters who need a framework to start them off.
- Use the tools available to you
There is a whole world of different tools to help you with budgeting nowadays. While it can’t be said that any budgeting app is the best, as they all have their pros and cons, you will certainly be able to find one that suits your style and your needs best. These are useful for several different reasons.
Firstly, they can connect to your bank account and credit cards, in order to keep track of and categorize all of your purchases, which helps you plan ahead. The second major advantage is the fact that there is some external support to help you keep at it when you waver!